There are many things I don’t love about Christmas.
First off, those ridiculous fake antlers that people put on their cars. And that infernal Salvation Army bell ringing – whywhywhy do they keep ringing at you no matter how much money you put in there? I swear I’d drop a fifty just to be able to get from the front door of Target to my car without feeling like I was going to be mowed over by a bunch of rattle-wielding toddlers hopped up on candy canes.
And then there’s the whole frickin’ Elf on the Shelf mishegoss that is supposed to inspire good behavior in the children but as far as I can tell is just another way for martyr mothers to create messes that they then have to clean up in the morning, when it is far too early for vodka. (Obviously, I did not get here first: this Elf hater’s rant went viral last year.)
I’ve actually mellowed waaaaay down about the whole Santa season. I used to self-righteously correct every person who wished us a “Merry Christmas” in the checkout line because I felt like I had to defend my children’s sense of identity; I was also rather sensitive when well-meaning folks gave the kids presents for Christmas like they’d been somehow deprived. And then there’s the confusing fuckery of a Jewish kid sitting on Santa’s lap, and the harsh reality when that kid’s Christmas wish comes true.
I’ve responded over the years by jacking up our Chanukah celebrations: The outside of our house looks like a Jewish Las Vegas, we play dreidel every night, we invite people over to eat and drink, we revel in the joy of who we are and who we love. My point is to party everyone to exhaustion so that when Christmas rolls around, we’re still all sated and content in our latke comas.
Still, being a Jew on Christmas can get lonely, or worse, a pity party. In past year’s we’ve packed everyone up for a schizo holiday adventure, which is fun, but expensive. And a lot of driving.
So this year we chose to do nothing for Christmas. No plans, no Chinese food, no movie theater lines, nothing. No visitors, no consolatory Santa gifts, no crashing other people’s homes for a stray glass of eggnog. It was fantastic. We sat around the house, knitting and playing board games. No one showered. When it started getting dark we made steaks and acorn squash and kale, followed by a chocolate cherry pie I made only partly from scratch. The highlight of the day was watching Dr. Who on the BBC.
It was enlightening to realize that we Jews don’t have to hide from Christmas, to avoid Santa and the pretty lights and the decorated trees. Our children are gonna find it anyway, and it doesn’t make them any less Jewish to love those fun snappers or wear an oversized Santa cap. I’m cool with our familial attitude that it’s a glorious holiday that so many of our friends enjoy, and we can wish them well. And enjoy an eggnog if we’re so invited.
So when the lady at the coffeeshop this morning asked me if I’d had a Merry Christmas, I didn’t even feel like I needed to remind her that not everyone celebrates this holiday. I just smiled and said “Yes, I did. Hope you did, too.”